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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Dolly Parton razzles and dazzles

Arrowhead Pond Anaheim, Cal., Dec. 9, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

ANAHEIM, CA - The last time Dolly Parton played these parts, she was with just a backing band, and the evening centered around the artist as a songwriter. But this time through, she played before an arena crowd, where the focus was squarely on her more sparkly show business personality. And while this night presented a markedly different side of Parton's persona, it was (and is) nevertheless a relevant one.

The trouble with watching Dolly show off her Dollywood side, however, is that her serious songwriter skills sometimes suffer for it. For instance, her opening crowd-pleasers, such as "9 To 5" and "Two Doors Down" - which are, admittedly trite entries from her repertoire - were not always performed in their entirety. In this particularly sequined atmosphere, even a classic like "Jolene" came off like just another selection from her greatest hits package.

Still some of the more glitzy moments were also quite entertaining, such as when Parton found herself singing a duet with an Elvis impersonator or when she sat atop of her shiny white piano to sing the sultry "Baby, It's Cold Outside." And speaking of that bright piano, Parton also accompanied herself on it for a jazzy Dolly-does-Norah Jones-doing-Dolly version of "Grass Is Blue." Who knew she even knew how to play piano.

The most troubling bigger-than-life moment this night came with Parton's singing of "Thank God I'm A Country Girl," where she switched from harmonica, to banjo to Jews harp - all within just one song. It came off just a little too much like showing off.

Even so, Parton certainly has more to show off than just her, um, natural physical attributes. With her sly jokes and sincere smile, Dolly Parton did a fine razzle dazzle job for her audience - even though it didn't exactly look like 9 to 5 work.

The six-piece The Grascals opened this show with a six-song set. Before changing out of their casual ware, and into formal clothing to join with Dolly's band, this group played mostly straight bluegrass. It even threw in a thoughtful cover of Merle Haggard's "Today, I Started Loving You Again."